Crow tribal members approve $461M water settlement

Billings, Montana (AP) March 2011

Crow tribal members have voted to approve a $461 million water-rights settlement with the federal government that officials say will help pull the Montana tribe from poverty by allowing more industrial and agricultural development.

Tribal officials say the measure to approve the Crow Water Claims Settlement Act passed with 72 percent approval.

The Billings Gazette reports that Crow Tribal Chairman Cedric Black Eagle released unofficial results last week. The chairman says the Crow Election Commission will certify the vote count within 48 hours.

The deal allocates to the tribe up to 300,000 acre-feet of water annually from Bighorn Lake, and 500,000 acre-feet annually from the Bighorn River. The federal government will spend $461 million on irrigation improvements, industrial and municipal water system upgrades and other projects.

In exchange, the tribe waives any legal claims against the government for being denied adequate water resources in the past.